Inspired by Dave Till's August 2005 Report Card for the Blue Jays' major-league players, I put together something similar for the five minor-league franchises still playing as of this date (Pulaski's season has ended). Here's one observer's take on the good and the not-quite-so-good for the Blue Jays' five top farm teams.
Rochester 14 Syracuse 6
The Skychiefs organization, according to published reports, is deeply peeved with the Blue Jays for the franchiseís inability to field a competitive team in Syracuse. While injuries at both the MLB and AAA levels have affected the Chiefsí competitiveness and attractiveness lately, they do have a point. Last night, they fielded the following players at the following positions:
2B Desi Relaford
SS Julius Matos
DH Glenn Barker
RF Chad Mottola
1B Ken Huckaby
Even for a post-September 1 ballgame, has-beens and never-weres populate this lineup and this roster: John-Ford Griffin was the only starter last night likely to make a major-league roster next season, and Griffinís best shot at a steady big-league paycheque is to become the next John Vander Wal. The Blue Jays have acquired a habit of promoting some of their best prospects straight from Double-A Ė thatís not a good way to make friends in Triple-A. Iím not sure how much longer that kind of relationship can last. Zach Jackson is a top pitching prospect, but this is his first full pro season and heís not yet ready for this level of competition. Remember Dave Gassner? Nine Kís in 5 innings for Rochester.
- Zach Jackson: 5 1/3 IP, 10 H, 8 R, 5 ER, 4 BB, 3 K, 1 HR: 5.13 ERA
- John-Ford Griffin: 2/5, RBI, 2 K: .254 BA
Norwich 2 New Hampshire 0
One double and 2 singles is all the Fisher Cats offence could offer last night against Anthony Moreno, whose 6 shutout innings lowered his season ERA to 5.01. This is probably stating the obvious, but the Fisher Cats canít hit, and they havenít hit all season. New Hampshire is batting .248/.305/.376 as a team, 12th and dead last in the Eastern League in all three categories (whereas itís 2nd in team ERA). Yes, Fisher Cats Stadium plays like Dodger Stadium East, but the real culprit here is the Blue Jaysí drafting strategy. JP Ricciardi has made it very clear that the Jays prefer drafting pitching to hitting, because reliable pitching is much more difficult to trade for on the open market and young pitchers make much better trade bait themselves. Both statements are true, but it means that the Jaysí various minor-league teams are bereft of exciting hitting prospects. And as any farm-team marketing director will tell you, even the most loyal baseball fans can only sit through so many 2-1 games over the course of a season. Whatís good for the big-league club has often not been very good for its affiliates. New Hampshire is too new an addition to the organization to complain like Syracuse has, and winning the league championship in your first year buys you a lot of time. But as an organization, the Jays might want to start thinking about adjusting their drafting strategy slightly.
- Cameron Reimers: 7 IP, 7 H, 2 ER, 2 H, 2 BB, 2 K: 4.15 ERA
Dunedin 8 Sarasota 1
In fact, if itís offence you want, you should look in the least likely of places. Dunedin, in the traditionally hitter-hostile Florida State League, has produced a .284/.350/.422 team line, which ranks 1st, 3rd, and 1st in all three categories. The D-Jays are an offensive powerhouse, thanks to performances from Adam Lind, Robinzon Diaz, the post-demotion Carlo Cota, and six incredible weeks of Chip Cannon. Is it a coincidence that Dunedin, at 40-28, has the most wins in the league? I donít think it is (the D-Jays are third in ERA, by the way). Dunedin has been a very solid franchise for a few years now, despite some bad luck on the playoffs, and a more balanced attack is part of the reason. Prospect Watch:
- Mike MacDonald: 9 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 5 K: 4.21
- Rodney Medina: 2/4, HR, 5 RBI: .268
- Robinzon Diaz: 2/4, RBI, R, K: .294
- Adam Lind : 1/3, R, 2 BB: .314
West Michigan 5 Lansing 4
The newest addition to the Jays organization has had a pretty mediocre debut. Lansing, despite losing last night by giving up a three-spot in the ninth inning, is still finishing strongly with a 7-3 mark in its last 10 games. But at 31-36, the Lugnuts arenít going to reach .500 before seasonís end, let alone the playoffs. The offence has been mediocre -- better-than-average on-base numbers, quite poor slugging numbers -- while the pitching is squarely in the middle of the pack. Lugnut Fan can tell us more about how the teamís performance has been received in the stands and in the community, but from an organizational perspective, it was an only okay year. The Jays, like other teams, send their most promising A-Ball prospects to the High-A league, while for the most part (international projects like Chi-Hung Cheng aside) the Low-A players know theyíve been sent to the baseball equivalent of remedial school. (Ditto that for Auburn and Pulaski). Thatís too bad, considering that Lansing is a terrific baseball city, but sometimes thatís how it breaks.
- Ryan Klosterman: 2/3, 2B, R, BB, K: .238
- Christian Snavely: 1/3, RBI, BB: .287
Auburn 4 Mahoning Valley 3
Itís fun to be the Auburn Doubledays. Every year, they get the cream of a June draft that, thanks to the Blue Jaysí philosophy, is usually stacked with collegiate players Ė batters who can draw a walk, pitchers who can throw a strike. They had a Triple Crown winner last season in Vito Chiaravalotti, and this year, they have one of the better hitting prospects to enter the system in years, Ryan Patterson (.337/.386/.583, 264 AB, 20 2B, 3 3B, 13 HR, 63 RBI, 21 BB, 51 K), who homered and drove in 4 runs last night. The Doubledays sit atop their division at 40-29, with an offence middling in all categories but power (2nd in slugging) and middling in ERA too. Again, is it a coincidence that the Jaysí two most power-laden minor-league teams are leading their divisions? Again, it is not.
- Jesse Litsch: 3 2/3 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 4 K: 4.00
- Ryan Patterson: 2/4, HR, 4 RBI, K: .337
- Sean Shoffitt: 1/4, 2 R, BB, 2 K: .264
- Brian Bormaster: 3/3, 2B, BB: .311
Pulaskiís season is over
Your Three-Star Selection:
3. Brian Bormaster, Auburn: Three-for-three with a double and a walk.
2. Ryan Patterson, Auburn: Home run and 4 RBIs for the future star.
1. Mike MacDonald, Dunedin: Complete-game 5-hitter is the organizationís game of the night.